As a parent, I’m often overwhelmed by the complexity of my children’s social lives, trying to figure out who is popular, who are the trend setters, and who are the leaders in their communities. My son yearns to be a leader and is slowly recognizing that leadership comes from humility and action, not talk, while my younger daughter is a natural leader, but doesn’t always remember to take into account the interests of her friends. My oldest? She just withdrew from the complexities of teen social dynamics entirely, though she’ll make a fine leader at some point when she’s ready to move back onto the stage of peer dynamics.
Living in Colorado, I’ve always wanted to have my children get involved with the 4-H program and have been disappointed when none of them have expressed any interest whatsoever in any organized group. But we’ve still done our best to encourage community involvement for each of them through organized sports and lots of extra-curricular activities at their schools.
Don’t know 4-H? It’s America’s largest youth development program that’s at the forefront of youth empowerment, with over six million young people involved. The 4 H’s reveal its wider mission: Head (Managing, Thinking), Heart (Relating, Caring), Hands (Giving, Working) and Health (Being, Living). An excellent set of values to instill in our children.
This year 4-H is launching the Grow True Leaders Campaign, focused on the need for us adults to help teach our children true leadership skills and to give them opportunities to demonstrate their leadership abilities.
And here’s the thing: Being a leader doesn’t mean you hold rallies in the playground and have a driver, leadership involves those day-to-day moments in a child’s life when they can make a difference. A few examples: speaking up for the kid who’s being bullied, saying “no” when talk of a hurtful prank arises, suggesting a smarter, healthier alternative to drugs or alcohol comes at just the right moment to head off a potential disaster. All require an inner strength and confidence.
That’s what the Grow True Leaders campaign is about, and it’s easy to participate: simply promote positive youth development and recognize youth leaders. How? It’s as easy as a #TrueLeaders shout out on social media, sharing a success you see with your own child or another kid in your community.
You can encourage your children to be leaders too by being a shining example yourself. Do you speak up for the little guy? Do you keep an open mind to people with differences, either religious, political or social differences? Do you support causes you believe in passionately? Do you talk about your views and beliefs with your friends and co-workers, and patiently explain your own views and perspective?
You can also help your children in this regard by trusting them, by supporting them, by making sure they know you’ve “got their back” if they get into an argument with a close-minded teacher or other parents reach out and question your child’s motives or behaviors. Or if they have to recreate their social circle with new, more upstanding kids.
Leadership is demonstrated through action, and I’m enthused to see 4-H step up and help remind us that sometimes supporting the next generation of leaders is as simple as saying “nice job!” and “well done”, either in person or through social media.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of 4-H. The opinions and text are all mine.